The coastal whites of Chile are perfect for warm weather drinking
Over the majority of the last two decades, Americans have come to learn that wines from South America in general -- and Chile in particular -- can often provide great value. As time has passed we have also seen the increase in quality of premium wines from Chile, as well as a large proliferation of them on our shelves. The variety of styles and grapes utilized has also increased exponentially. Whereas at one point Chile was simply a place to look to for bargain wines, it’s now a country to look to for innovation and diversity in a wide-ranging array of price points. It is now not only possible, but advisable, when thinking of the Wines of Chile to look at specific categories for comparison. Toward that end I recently took part in an online tasting that focused on Coastal White Wines. What I discovered was a host of delicious wines that offer both the threads of commonality that come from similar growing regions, as well as the diversity that comes from vineyard-driven offerings that are made with purity in mind. Each of the wines I tasted at that event was unique and special in its own way. Three in particular stood out to me and here they are.
First up is the Vina Los Vascos 2011 Sauvignon Blanc. The fruit for this wine is mainly from Chile’s Casablanca Valley with small contributions from a couple of other areas. This wine is 100 percent Sauvignon Blanc. The fruit was fermented in a controlled environment at cool temperatures in stainless steel. Approximately 25,000 cases were produced, and it has a suggested retail price of $13.99. Lemon ice and tropical fruit aromas emerge with conviction from the nose of this 2011 Sauvignon Blanc. The palate is loaded with fresh, vibrant fruit flavors that scream summer. Bits of white pepper, continued citrus and wisps of orchard fruit round out the finish, which has good length. This is a well-balanced wine with nice acidity. This is a fine example of a wine that will work perfectly as an aperitif or paired with light appetizers. For under $15 it’s also a wine you might want to consider stocking up on to drink all summer long.
The second wine that knocked me out is the Marques de Casa Concha 2009 Chardonnay from Concha Y Toro. The fruit for this Chardonnay was sourced in the Limari Valley. All of the Chardonnay utilized was hand harvested, and this wine is 100 percent Chardonnay. Barrel aging took place over a period of 12 months in French oak. This wine has a suggested retail price of $19. Orchard fruit aromas emerge from the nose of this Chardonnay, along with bits of toast and vanilla bean. Apple, pear and white fig flavors are preset in droves throughout the rich palate, which shows off excellent depth. Minerals, bits of cream, white pepper and continued orchard fruit flavors are present through the finish, which has above-average length. This Chardonnay will pair well with cheeses and cream-based dishes, to name just a few. It also drinks particularly well on its own.
Finally we have the Casa Silva 2011 Cool Coast Sauvignon Blanc. All of the fruit for this wine was sourced in the Colchagua Valley. This wine is 100 percent Sauvignon Blanc. After the fruit was picked it was cooled to 41 degrees when it arrived at the winery. The grape bunches were hand sorted to assure optimum quality. Fermentation took place over 24 days in temperature-controlled stainless steel tanks. This wine has a suggested retail price of $25. Citrus, grass and tropical fruit aromas are in abundance on the lovely nose of this 2011 Sauvignon Blanc. This wine shows off a core of minerals that absolutely steal the show with their intensity. Lemon and lime zest play a role along with less obvious bits of tropical fruit. Continued minerals are complemented by spice elements on a lengthy and persistent finish that is like the rest of the wine -- complex, intense and sophisticated. There is firm and racy acidity present here and is one of the hallmarks of this wine. This is an incredibly impressive expression of Sauvignon Blanc, one of the two or three best I have ever had from Chile. It’s a wine worth making a special effort to taste.
This trio of wines only begins to scratch the surface of Coastal Wines from Chile. There is an impressive and diverse selection of offerings landing on our shores from Chile. And regardless of where they stand on the price scale, more often than not Chilean wines represent terrific, sometimes stunning values when compared to similarly priced selections from other parts of the world. My suggestion is to spend some time and money digging in to what Chile has to offer. I trust you’ll find delicious wines and more money left in your wallet than you’d have expected.